Red Sox still look like front-runners to win the Teixeira Sweepstakes
The Red Sox, Angels and Yankees are seen as the main contenders for Teixeira
The Dodgers succeeded with an 11th-hour bid for free agent Rafael Furcal
Derek Lowe could be headed to the Mets to replace Oliver Perez
With perhaps only days to go, many baseball executives seem to believe the Red Sox have the best chance to sign Mark Teixeira.
"I think he's going to the Red Sox. You think he's going there. And everyone in baseball thinks that,'' says a slightly exaggerating executive with one of the other interested teams.
The reason, it seems, that people believe the Red Sox will grab the multitalented Teixeira is that they are the one and only perennially-winning team on the East Coast that's known to be all in for Teixeira, a Maryland native.
The Angels are on the West Coast, the Orioles and Nationals are perennial losers, and it still remains somewhat uncertain how committed to the cause the Yankees are.
And yet it's barely better than a guessing game for everyone except Teixeira himself, agent Scott Boras and a very close coterie of confidants.
A decision is likely by sometime next week, perhaps just before Christmas, as Teixeira has been saying all along. Until then we have some serious tea leaves to read.
There were signs in recent days that the Red Sox, Angels and Nationals were the three highest bidders. One source said he believed that Boston was in for close to $180 million over eight years and the Angels in for about the same. The Nats may be as high, or even higher than that. Some suggest they have either hit the $200 million mark, or gotten very close. Or that someone else has.
But who can be sure? And who knows whether final bids are in?
It appears that Teixeira's still fielding last-minute offers, and that every team will have a chance for one more move. That could include the Yankees, who have been staying mostly under the radar on this one after spending $243.5 million so far on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
One person on a competing team compared the Yankees' participation to that of the Red Sox in the Sabathia Sweepstakes -- in other words, not so much. But that was nothing more than a best guess, just like all the others are.
Here's how I'd assess the Teixeira competitors...
1. Red Sox. Boston absolutely loves Teixeira, a young, powerful switch hitter who'd fit nicely into the lineup and bolster it enough where they wouldn't have to worry about some natural slippage off career years by Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and even continued slippage by the great David Ortiz. They could easily move the versatile Youkilis to third base (though they'd then have to find a taker later for Mike Lowell). Boston's on the right coast, and no one has won more than them in recent years. The Red Sox also have extra incentive because, unlike the other losers in this derby, they can't and won't turn to Manny Ramirez as a superstar fallback option. One caveat: They aren't a team to go nuts on the price (excepting a posting price, that is): "We're drawing a line in the sand,'' one Red Sox person said. However, about half of baseball thinks their line will be high enough. Odds to sign Teixeira: Even money.
2. Angels. Owner Arte Moreno has made clear to SI (and everyone else, really) his great desire to return Teixeira to the Angels' otherwise limp lineup. "Teixeira's my guy,'' Moreno told me at the winter meetings. "We love him, and we covet him,'' one other Angels person said of Teixeira. But while Moreno is one of baseball's very best owners, he hasn't been one to go crazy on player contracts (excepting the mistake that was Gary Matthews Jr.). Moreno also has reminded different people in the past that he paid only $180 million for the whole team. So to beat that number for one first baseman would be a mild surprise. Odds: 3-1.
3. Yankees. The Yankees seem to feel that as the team that's closest to Teixeira's home Baltimore-Washington area without actually being Baltimore or Washington, they would have an excellent chance if they're willing to commit themselves to the pursuit. But the Yankees appear to be dipping in and out on Tex. They've spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars already, some Yankees people might even like Manny almost as much (Hank the Yank is one of those people), they may hesitate going long for a first baseman after the bloated $120 million Jason Giambi contract that finally expired, and they may need to use the position to house Jorge Posada at times. The Yankees may also not want to seem too piggish, because word now is that they'll hesitate if the number goes past $180 million. Odds: 6-1.
4. Nationals. Word is, owner Ted Lerner, who's 83 and a multibillionaire, very much impressed Teixeira. Translation: They may be offering the moon. But even so, the Nats are a long way from winning. And no one watches them. Odds: 15-1.
5. Orioles. There have been a lot of funny rumors lately, many of them connected to the O's. One had Teixeira spending the day at a Ravens game with O's owner Peter Angelos. If that happened there's no reason to think that would help, anyway. Angelos has been pining for Teixeira forever, but they are believed to be running behind in the bidding, anyway. Beyond the money issue, how does a player in search of a decade-long deal sign up to play for a team that hasn't won in over a decade? Odds: 25-1.